I have had a couple of conversations this week with parents seeking help with learning for a child with autism, so I thought it would be worth exploring it a little more.
Autism is a condition where the individual has some combination of difficulty with social interactions, has some degree of obsessive interest and behaviours, and sensory sensitivities. People diagnosed with autism sit somewhere on a spectrum according to the level of difficulty experienced.
Most often schools are a really difficult place for children with autism. In school a child is pushed by the system to be compliant with group structures and rules and this often runs counter to the drives and sensitivities of the child. Other children can find it difficult to be sensitive towards a child with autism and so the child can end up being ignored or bullied.
While some schools have a deep understanding and sensitivity of the needs of an autistic child and actively run programs across the school to support them, most schools merely try to cope. This makes sending an autistic child to school heartbreaking for the parents and stressful for the child.
If you have a school child who has been diagnosed with autism, the good news is they can learn and they can integrate with other children. Like any learning difference, it can be a barrier to some learning, but you can help your child develop techniques to overcome barriers. It requires extra work and patience by you and by the school but it can be done.
- Start by visiting https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/content/schools. They can provide help for you and the school.
- Have regular school meetings. Make a list of items ahead of the meetings and make sure the school knows your list before the meeting starts (that will give them time to prepare with ideas and solutions).
- There are Facebook groups for parents who have autistic children. Join them and share ideas.
- What you do at home is super important for helping your child. They will need extra help and coaching in coping and the one on one time you give them at home will be invaluable. (see an example here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEEBcaplgNo).
If your child goes to school with a child who has autism, take the time to talk to your child about it. It is important to help your child to understand that the child with autism might just have some difficulty with socialisation and needs the patience and support of your child. I remember talking to a tearful mother some years ago whose child had autism. She had tears of joy because her socially awkward child had been invited to a birthday party. The invitation meant an awful lot to the child as it was the first one. Her child was thirteen years old.